|Where it is: LA. Where it's from: India.|
"What?!" I asked staring at the manhole cover beneath his feet.
"This!" he replied. "It's Made in India!" Just like my Royal Enfield motorcycle.
These days it is not very surprising that anything in the United States is made somewhere else, mostly China. But, somehow, no, I didn't expect the City of Los Angeles to have purchased its manhole covers in India.
And, besides, why would "Made in India" be thought so important that the words are every bit as prominent as the "City of LA" cast into the cover?
Turns out, manhole covers are no light matter to India.
According to IndUS Business Journal:
"Every year, American municipalities and utilities purchase thousands of Indian-made manhole covers at prices considerably less than those charged by American foundries. The list of public entities that have at one time or another purchased Indian-made manhole covers includes the cities of Los Angeles, New York, New Orleans and Phoenix..."
"Indian foundries typically sell their manhole covers for about one-third to one-half the cost of those produced in American foundries. The heavy iron lids, which weigh on average about 100 pounds, vary widely in price – basic manhole covers can cost as little as $75, while the more artistically designed lids can easily top $300 – but the majority of manhole covers fetch about $100."
Ah-ha, I'll bet that is why Los Angeles kept its manhole design Spartan, even going with the abbreviation "LA." It probably paid for the cover by the letter! The manufacturer had to fill out the design with "Made in India."
According to IndUS Business Journal, the lower cost of manhole covers from India is due entirely to lower wages paid to steelworkers there. In 2007, The New York Times detailed dangerous and miserable working conditions in a steel mill in India. That mill closed, but it's hardly a happy ending: the workers lost their jobs.
Based on the Royal Enfield Factory Tour video, I'd say that conditions look good for workers building Royal Enfields. I like to think so. I want to take pride that my motorcycle was Made in India.